Thursday, 31 October 2013

Psalm 9 - The Righteous One anticipating the setting up of the throne of judgment

The position of the Psalms in their relation to each other is often remarkable. It is questioned whether the present arrangement of them was the order in which they weregiven to Israel, or whether some later compiler, perhaps Ezra, was inspired to  attend to this matter, as well as other points connected with the Canon. Without attempting to decide this point, it is enough to remark that we have proof that the order of the Psalms is ancient as the completing of the canon; and if so, it seems obvious that the Holy Spirit wished this book to come down to us in its present order.

We make these remarks, in order to invite attention to the fact, that as the eighth caught up the last line of the seventh, this ninth opens with an apparent reference to the eigth.

"I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart.
I will show forth all your marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in you (Compare Song 1:4, Rev 19:7)
I will sing to your name, O Most High" (v1-2)

As if "The Name" so highly praised in the previous Psalm were still ringing in the ear of the sweet singer of Israel. And in v10, he returns to it, celebrating their confidence who "know" that "name" as if its fragrance still breathed in the atmosphere around.

There is a considerable resemblance, in the opening to the song in Isaiah 25:1-5. In both we have praise - praise to his name - wonderful things - enemies, and nations, and cities destroyed - and the Lord as a refuge for the needy, a refuge in times of trouble.

The perod in prophetic history, before the view of the prophetic Spirit, is the same in both cases; the same scene of the final ruin of God's enemies, and of Antichrist, is exhibited; and the language of our Psalm, like that of Isaiah 25:1-5, is that of the past, because the future is to the Lord as sure as if it had already come and gone.

There is an approach to the alphabetic form in the verses of this Psalm, but only in part. We shall have occasion to remark on this again in Psalm 10 and elsewhere.

It may be in connection with the subject of the Psalm that it is inscribed "to the Chief Musician upon Muth-labben." None of the titles is as obscure as this one. There is a plausible conjecture that it should be connected with the Psalms on Alamoth (1 Chron 15:20) and "ben" of 1 Chron 15:18 is referred to in Lab-ben; but the language does not match perfectly. Grotius and others consider it to be about the death of Nabal or "on the dying of the fool" but this seems gratuitous. Probably it is an unknown musical reference. The word death does suggest something sombre and solemn.

From v1-8 there is a sketch of what the Lord is to do when he rises up. "O enemy" as if like Hosea 13:14, looking in the face of Satan, and his followers on earth, from Saul to Antichrist. "O enemy, destructions are at an end." The memory of the foe perishes, like the cities which they destroy.

In v9-12, we hear what the Lord has been, and is, and shall be to his own, onward to teh day when he remembers the cry of souls under teh alatar (Rev 6:10.) Then a cry, like that of the martyrs, arises, v13-14, and the answer is given in v15-17. After all which v18-20 sing confidently and pray boldly to him who is to do such things on behalf of the saints.

The speaker may be any member of Christ's body, in sympathy with his Head; but Christ himself could utter it like no other could. Hence Augustine on v13 asks "he did not say why, Lord have mercy on us? Is it because he makes intercession for the saints as the first one who became poor for us."

Christ on earth delighted to commend his Father's name, as v10 does, and to assure disciples that with God, there is no castin out of one that has once come in.

But to all this every believer responds, and even in v16, every member of Christ may, in full sympathy with the feelings of justice and holiness in our Head, enter into the awful scene. They see the event as if it had already come -

The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made;
In the net which they hid is their own foot taken
The Lord is known by the judgement he executed
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands
Higgaion! Selah!

We hear a voice, as from the Holiest, uttering the words, Higgaion, a call to deep reflection or solem musing, and Selah, a call to the Chief Musician to pause, that the music ceasing, the worshippers might for a time meditate and adore.

With such silent awe, we may suppose, the hosts of Israel stood for a time, gazing on the dead bodies of the Egyptians, when morning light unveiled them floating on the waves, or cast up as sea-weed on the shore. Not less than this shall be the intensity of interest and awe felt by the saints, when from their cloud they look down on the overwhelmed hosts of Babylon.

In v18, there is an interesting rendering of the hope of the poor, in the English Prayer book version "the patient abiding of the poor." It reminds us of James 5:7, "be patient for the coming of the Lord." At the same time, the words more properly express the earnest expectation of God's poor ones, who are looking from their state of oppression and trouble (v9) for the coming of him whose "name they know" (v10) to be Judge of a disordered world.

Then they shall truly sing -

"The Lord is enthroned forever (lit. has sat down on his throne)
He has prepared his throne for judgement
He judges the world in unrightness:
He ministers judgement to the people in uprightness." (v7-8)

Of this Psalm we may say that in it we see - The Righteous One anticipating the setting up of the throne of judgment.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Psalm 8 - The manifestation of Jehovah's name in the dominion of the Son of man

Psalm 7 closed with "the name of the Most High" and this Psalm commences with it. Who can hesitate to say of this song of Zion, that its subject is none other than "The Name that is above every name"? For Hebrews 2:6-9 has claimed it for Jesus, and claimed it for him, too, in speaking of his exaltation in the New Earth, "the world to come."

Paul in 1 Cor 15:24 refers to a clause of it for fulfilment in the day of his return, and it is interesting to find our Lord himself quoting verse 2 in reference to the hosannas that welcomed him as Israel's King on the day when he proved his power over man and over the creatures, riding a donkey amid the sounds of thousands upon thousands.

Whether the Psalmist David knew distinctly the glorious burden of his song does not matter to us. The Holy Spirit taught his heart and harp to sing it and he gave it over the the chief musician to be used in the temple, sung or played on the Gittith. He may have had only a dim view of its real reference, as we do of the certain meaning of its title Gittith.

The original readers knew its meaning, the Tabernacle singers knew to what it referred... a vintage song or instrument of Gath perhaps, from the land of the Philistines. The original readers may not have seen what any child can confidently see today: that the crown that fell from our heads is seen on the head of the Second Adam.

Led by Hebrews 2, we find in this Psalm the manifestation of the Lord's name in the dominion of the Second Adam, when he reigns over a restored world. It has been said that this Psalm might be called "Genesis 1 turned into a prayer" but is more truly "Genesis 1 of the NEW Earth". It corresponds to Isaiah 11:6-7, by the scene it exhibits.

It contains a general view of God's dealings with the earth, from Genesis to Revelation. He  whose glory crowns the heavens, chooses the earth for a theatre in which to display his name. That is, his character, his very being, of which the name is a manifestation. Amid the ruins of the fall, He finds as sweet notes of praise ascending as from his angelic choirs; he finds he can confound his foes - all the seed of the serpent, in hell and on earth (Psalm 44:16) - by hosannas from "babes and sucklings." 

While "he sets his glory above the heavens," He finds no less glory to His name on earth.

  • Glorious grace appears in choosing earth as the place of this manifestation (v1). 
  • Glorious grace appears again in his working amid the feeblest of our feeble race, and in confounding the enemy and avenger by this display (v2). 
  • Glorious grace is seen dealing with man, the worm, the sorry man, whose dwelling and whose place in the scale of creation seem so low when compared with the heavens by day, lit up by the blazing sun, or the moon and stars by night, in their silent majesty (v4). 
  • Glorious grace lifts up man from his inferiority to angels (v5). Glorious grace gives man exaltation above angels, in giving him a Head, to whom that whole world is subject, and on whom it leans. 

All that was lost in Adam is gathered up in this Head: you made Him to have dominion - you have put all things under his feet.

It is a sight that, seen even from afar raises in the prophetic Psalmist adoring wonder and delight so that like the "Amen" in Rev 7:12, that both prefaces and concludes the angelic song, he begins and ends with the rapturous exclamation - "Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!"

One difficulty in this Psalm may be solved by attending to its apostolic use in Hebrews 2. The clause "you made him a little lower than the angels". In Exodus 22:28 the word signifies judges; and so it seems to have been used for other beings who are high and noble, like angels.  For Hebrews 1:6 renders the word "angels." Some however would keep this in the sense of God and explain it to this effect: you made him lack little of God, raising him to a super-earthly dignity.

But let it be noted, these interpretations are all inconsistent with Hebrews 2:6-9. That passage quotes this clause as referring to our Lord's humiliation, not to his exaltation. "We see Jesus, who has been crowned with glory and honour because of his suffering death, we see this Jesus made a little lower than angels, in order to taste death for everyone."

The "made lower" is thus placed beyond doubt as signifying humiliation; the comparison is not how little was between him and God, but how there was a little between him and angels, and that little on the side of apparent inferiority during the days of his humiliation - thought only as a scaffolding for his rising after in our nature far beyond every angel.

One other difficulty remains. At what point does this Psalm leave off the subject of man in general, and begin to speak of man's Head? We think it is at the word: you visited. Out of this visiting emerges nothing less than man's exaltation in his Head; and this sense of visiting seems referred to in Luke 1:68.

As the "manifesting" Jehovah's "name" was our Lord's unvarying design in all his work at his first coming (John 18:6,26) so shall it be his design at his second. Isaiah 30:27 introduces that event by "Behold, the name of the Lord comes." To this, indeed, he may refer, when John 18:26 he says that he not only has declared that name but he will declare it. Is there not a link of connection here?

Our Psalm and that wondrous prayer in which he looked onward to coming glory, both speak much of that Name. The dominion of the Second Adam shall carry on this discovery to the praise of his glory; and viewing the Psalm as pointing to this we may say, that it contains - the manifestation of Jehovah's name in the dominion of the Son of man.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Psalm 7 - The Righteous One's cry for righteous retribution

There is something like excitement in the style of this Psalm. We do not find it in the calm, deep cries of one in anguish but rather, the earnest, almost indignant, appeals of one whose righteous soul is vexed by a world's opposition. "Jehovah, my God, in you I have put my trust! Save me from my persecutors! (v1)

It is the voice of one who takes himself to Jehovah as his only Adullam-cave, and who makes his cave of refuge ring with his vehement appeals. Horsley remarks there is in it complaint, supplication, prediction, crimination, commination, and thanksgiving.

"Shuggaion" though some have attempted to fix on it a reference to the moral aspect of the world as depicted in this Psalm, is in all probability to be taken as expressing the nature of the composition. It conveys the idea of something erratic, wandering, in the style; something not so calm as other psalms, and hence Ewald suggests that it might be rendered, as "confused ode", a Dithyramb. This characteristic of excitement in the style, and a kind of disorder in the sense suits Habakkuk 3:1, the only other place where the word occurs.

But who was "Cush, the Benjamite?" None can give a decided answer, though all turn their eye to Saul, and seem nearly agreed that his calumnies against David gave occasion for the writing of this Psalm. The Targum hesitates not to say it is "Saul, the son of Kish." Hengetenberg concludes that Cush, the Ethiopian, is a name for Saul because of his dark hatred of David; others refer the name to one of Saul's company who as dark as his master's heart.

In any case, the Holy Spirit made use of some special attack of a foe as his time to convey to his servant this song. He is a God who gives songs in the night and he has by this means given to his church a song which every succeeding generation has felt appropriate in a world lying in wickedness, and which was never more appropriate than in these latter days.

The true David, no doubt, took it up in the days of his flesh; and often may have used it as part of his wondrous Liturgy, when alone in the hills of Galiless. The cry in v9 followed up by v10 "my shield is upon God" (my salvation is upon God, the idea is taken from the armour-bearer, ever ready at hand to give the needed weapon to the warrior.) God saves, he gives victory to the upright in heart. This reminds us of Him who elsewhere longs for the day of God in the words "Till the day breaks and the shadows flee away, I will get to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense."

From v1 to v5, innocence is pleaded against those who are adversaries, "without a cause." This feature of enmity, "without a cause," seems to have wounded the tender heart of our David very deeply; for in John 15:25, we find him quoting another Psalm where the same words occur and where the emphasis lies on "without a cause."

The world has hated him, because it hated the holiness that furnished no cause of accusation; and so has it hated his members because of what resemblance they bear to their unblemished Head. The world's enmity is ever directed against the only thing in the saints which they are sure the Lord loves' and so they can appeal with their Head against "those who without cause are our adversaries."

After a Selah pause (See also Psalm 4) the tone changes. From v6 onwards, the future day of retribution comes into view. What an importunate cry is raised in v6: "Arise O Lord, in your anger" - put on that fierce wrath which consumes all before it. "While your foes are raging (as in Psalm 2:1) lift yourself up;" and all this because "you have appointed a day in which you will judge the world in righteousness."

Did Paul at Athens (Acts 18:31) have his eye on the verse "the judgement you have ordained?"

In v7 we see all the tribes gathered around the Lord's tribunal; and "over that congregation" or assembly, the Lord takes his seat - as if they were all met there, waiting for the arrival of the Judge, who does at last appear and walks up to his seat in the view of all. Is there not a reference to the long-expected arrival of one who had gone for a time to a far country in the word "return" (Luke 19:12)

And now, v8, "The Lord judges the nations," acting in all the plenitude of the Judge's office - the office as held by Othniel , and Ehud, and Gideon, and Samson. As to right and wrong, he is what an ancient Roman was called "Scopulus reorum" - every guilt man makes shipwreck on that rock; but He is ruler, too, putting earth in order.

And when the Son of David used this prayer, he was implicitly asking for the day of his own glory - when the Father will be the Judge by committing all judgment to the Son (John 5:22,27)

The remainder of this judgment-day Psalm presents us with views of the fearful overthrow of the ungodly - all of them doubly emphatic when understood as spoken by Him who had seen the armoury of heaven, "no man having ascended up to heaven, but He who came down from heaven," and who spoke what he did know, and testifyied what he had seen.

Whether we apply these verses to each individual sinner, or use them of the great Antichrist - that special lawless one - the description is so constructed as to apply in terrible grandeur. We see Jehovah's daily anger (v11), which is, in other words, his daily hatred of sin. "Judging righteously while every day finding cause of anger."

We hear him tell, that if the sinner does not return (v12, if a man does not turn) then there is prepared for him the sword, as well as the bow. There is the arrow from the bow aimed at his heart to lay him low, like Goliath laid low by the pebble in his forehead, and then the sword to complete the work of death. Let none think of recovering from the wound; for his instruments are "instruments of death" and he "makes his arrows burning" and he shoots his flaming shafts, burning with the fire of Almighty wrath, into their hearts!

All this the sinner has wrought for himself - all this Antichist has wrought for himself - it is the cup he has filled and filled double.

He is precipitated into the pit from the height of his prosperity. How brief, yet how comprehensive, is this sketch of his doom! It is James 1:15 exhibited in each sinner's history, and in the final end of "that wicked" whom the Lord shall destroy by the brightness of his coming.

Verse 17 is the "Hallelujah, amen!" of Rev 19:1-4. And is not the whole Psalm one which which we may well believe the Head of the Church often used, and which each member uses still when in sympathy with the martyr-band (Rev 6:10)? In either view it is - the Righteous One's cry for righteous retribution.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Psalm 6 - The comfortless night of The Righteous One

The Catholics called this Psalm, with 33, 38, 51, 102, 130, 140 and 142, the seven Pentitential Psalms. They considered that it was to be used, like Naaman at the Jordan and lepers at purification, as a sevenfold washing or sprinkling.

Hitherto, the harp of Judah, and the sacred instruments of varied chords, have sounded little concerning the Just One's inward sorrows. But now the Psalmist points "the Chief Musician" to the "Neginoth" mentioned in Psalm 6, and at the same time to "Sheminith" of some eight-stringed instrument, as if both together must be used for a theme so intensely melancholy as these verses handle. Augustine has a long passage in which he discussed whether there is a reference in the eight to the Last Day, the Eternal Day.

We might at once say to the reader, This is not David, it is the Son of David; the grief is too deep for any other - "you never saw a vessel of like sorrow"

David may have been led by the Holy Spirit to write it when in anguish of soul, as well as suffering of body; through such a bruised reed the Spirit of God may have breathed. But surely he meant to tell of One greater than David, - "the man of sorrows." Perhaps David had some seasons of anguish in his wanderings in the wilderness of Judah that furnished a shadow of the grief of Him who was to come, "bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows."

Awakened souls experience sorrow of soul and alarming apprehensions of divine indignation, such as this Psalm expresses. A clear sight of sin, while the face of the Mediator is hid, produces this state of soul. Occasionally too, believers feel, from peculiar causes, glooms that may be expressed in the words of this Psalm more fitly than any other.

And particular clauses in it will express many of a believer's frames, even as v6, "Lord, how long?" was Calvin's favourite utterance. Still, it is chiefly of the true David that this is written. We may suppose every word used by Him in some of those nights which he passed in desert places, or in the garden of Gethsemane.

What cries are these? "Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath." Is not this the same voice that cried, "Father, if it is possible, remove this cup from me?" Again "have mercy upon me O Lord, for I am weak" Is this not the same who said "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak?" (Matt 26:34

We listen, and again He cries "my soul is deeply vexed." Is it not the voice of Him who, as He entered the garden spoke with such affecting sadness to his disciples, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful" (Matt 27:38). Yes, He said "even to death."

In this Psalm we hear Him tell some of his foreboding of death. It seems to be the very hour referred to in Hebrews 6:7 - the hour of "strong crying and tears to Him who was able to save him from death." For here are his strong reasonings with God - "in death there is no remembrance of you; in the grave who will give thanks to you?"

This expostulation is undoubtedly one a member of Christ could use; for Hezekiah used it (Isaiah 38:18), pleading that if taken away, he could do no more to make known God's name and glory among people. But how peculiarly forcible it becomes in the lips of Jesus! If he is to be given over to death, left under its power, then neither He, nor any one of all those whom the Father had given Him, can ever give praise.

The dark night becomes darker. It is midnight, "I am weary with my groaning. My eye is consumed with grief. It waxes old, because of my enemies." "The eye is the mirror and the gauge of soundness, not merely as respects the soul, but the body also," says a well known commentator. On his brow, anguish had shed more snows (John 8:57) than threescore winters, in their natural course, might else have sprinkled there; for inconceivably stupendous must His view of sin have been, and his sense of its loathsomeness, his discovery of its hurt to God and man, and his sorrow under the wrath due to it.

But all at once there is a change. The angel from heaven strengthens him (Luke 22:43.) He is revived by the Father's promise, "I have glorified you and will glorify you again. He sees his foes "confounded and terrified by the look of that very face, which they once could spit upon (v10).

It is only at this one point that this Psalm presents anything bearing on the prophetic future. But certainly it does at this turn present us with a glimpse of the Second Coming of Him whose First Coming was so full of woe.

"The voice of the turtle is heard again" says a German commentator; and truly it is so. For at v8, the Suffering One sees "the glory that is to follow" and exclaims, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity" words which are employed by himself in Luke 13:27, in describing the terms in which, as judge, He will address the multitudes of the unsaved on the Great Day, when He has risen up and has shut the door.

Was it not designed that this ending should draw more attention to the beginning? Let the sinner now consider the Suffering One, lest the sentence pass on him, "Depart." Come, and see here what a price was paid for the soul's redemption' and if you have felt anguish of spirit under a sense of deserved wrath, let it cease when you find the Man of sorrows presenting all his anguish as the atonement for your soul.

Thus will the reader use aright this most emotional Psalm in meditating on which he is shown the comfortless night of the Righteous One.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Psalm 5 - The Righteous One's thoughts of God and man while going up to the morning sacrifice

Another song of the sweet singer of Israel, handed over to the "Chief Musician" who was to fit it to be publicly sung "on the Nehiloth". This was one of the many musical instruments now unknown, lost to us ever since Israel hung their harp on the willows and had their joy turned into mourning - though generally understood to be a wind instrument or pipe of some sort. Hengstenberg and others consider the title to convey a mystical meaning, rendering this "on the lots". I find this quite fanciful.

There is in it some prophetic element toward the close. In v10, 11, we have something closely resembling the Apocalyptic scene in Rev 19, 1,3, 4. The Psalmist so fully sympathises with the justice of the doom that is coming on the obstinate and impenitent rebels against God, that he cries aloud, "destroy them, O God!" or more exactly "Hold them guilty, and treat them as such"

On the other hand, there arises at the same moment the shout of the righteous, acquiescing with entire satisfaction in their doom: "And let all those who put their trust in you, rejoice! Let them ever shout for joy! This is their Hallelujah over the rising smoke of torment - their "glory and honour to the Lord our God."

And perhaps it is in this manner we are to understand throughout the book of Psalms all those portions where we find prayers that breathe revenge.  They are never to be thought of as breathed assent of righteous souls to the justice of their God, who takes vengeance on sin.

When taken as the words of Christ himself, they are no other than an echo of the Intercessor's acquiescence at last in the sentence on the barren fig-tree. It is as if he cried aloud "Cut it down now - I will intercede no longer - the doom is righteous, destroy them, O God;' cast them out for the multitude of their sins for they have rebelled against you."

And in the same moment he may be supposed to invite his saints to sympathise in his decision; just as in Rev 18:20; "rejoice over her, you heavens, and you holy apostles and prophets!" In like manner, when one of Christ's members, in entire sympathy with his head, views the barren fig-tree from the same point of observation, and sees the glory of God concerned in inflicting the blow, he too can cry "let the axe smite!"

Had Abraham stood beside the angel who destroyed Sodom, and seem how Jehovah's name required the ruin of those impenitent rebels, he would have cried out "let the shower descend - let the fire and brimstone come down" not in any spirit of revenge - not from want of tender love to souls - but from intense earnestness of concern for the glory of God.

We consider this explanation to be the real key that opens all the difficult passages in this book, where curses seem to be called for on the head of the ungodly. They are no more than a carrying out of Deut 27:15-26 - "let all the people say, Amen" and an entering into the Lord's holy abhorrence of sin and delight in acts of justice expressed in the "Amen, hallelujah" of Rev 19:3.

Truth, says one, is always a form of Charity; or to speak more properly Truth is the soul of which Charity is but the beautiful graceful and lovely member. Charity, therefore, is not to be known by soft words and gentle actions, which are often the form of policy and courtesy; but must be sought in the principles of the heart, out of which our words, thoughts and actions come. Is it love to God by which we are moved? Then it is charity, be its form mildness, or zeal, or the stern inflictions of justice.

But let us read the whole Psalm. And we may notice that here the words occur, for the first time, "My King and my God." On this Augustine remarks that we go to the Father through the King. He that is peculiarly "King" to Israel is on Israel's side, for 1 Sam 8:20 shows that the idea included in this term is fighting for his subjects. The blue, (Ex 8:15), purple and scarlet at the gate of the Tabernacle, and all its veils proclaimed, "This is the dwelling of Israel's King as well as Israel's God"

We seem to see One going up to the Tabernacle early, in prospect of the morning sacrifices. It is near the time; the priest is already at the altar, setting the wood in order, and the Lamb is bound to the altar's horns; the worshippers eye and heart are upward - "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my silent prayer" (v1) a prayer made up of "unutterable groanings" (Rom 8:26) and which can be heard, as well as presented while he stands amid the crowd that are gathering in the courts.

"You will hear my voice  in the morning" (v3) is the expression of a resolution habitually to come before him early - "my earliest cry shall always be to you, in the morning I will direct my spiritual offering to you, and will look up to that house of prayer where the altar and the mercy-seat stand, where God is revealed in his grace."

The altar presents "God reconciling the word to himself, not counting men's sins against them." Jehovah's  look of love is there, his voice is love from its four horns, everything tells man of grace.

He is up early securing the best our of the day like a diligent artist (Horne), but how careless are those around this worshipper, some come up the altar to lull their conscience asleep by the formality of a visit to the courts of God' others hurrying off to their earthly pursuits. This leads him to meditate before God on the "world lying in wickedness" (v4-9), interposing his own resolute determination to be unlike that world (v7_ by the held of Jehovah (v8). A "dwelling with god" which is the lowest means of friendly intercourse is what his righteous soul relishes and revels in the enjoyment of, and the lack of this he considers to be the misery of the ungodly (v4).

This is the very spirit of the beloved John (1  John 4:16) - "he who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." And the resemblance is all the closer when we find v7 speak of his coming" in the multitude of your mercy" or "greatness of your love" to worship in Jehovah's "Holy Temple." And then the believer's soul prays to be led by the pillar cloud of divine wisdom, knowing the snares of his foes.

It is after this that he is bought into such deep sympathy with the holy purposes and righteous sentences of Jehovah, in whose love he dwells, so he cries "Destroy them, O God" (v10). And we leave him singing with assured confidence "for you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favour you will cover him, as with a shield."

It is a Psalm which most certainly Messiah could use; none could ever use it so fully as He. Think of Him, some morning leaving Bethany early so He may be in time for the morning sacrifice, and breathing out this Psalm by the way and as He enters the Temple courts. Every word of it becomes doubly emphatic in his lips, down to the last verse where we see Him as "The Righteous One" covers with the Father's love and well-pleasedness. But whether we read it as peculiarly the utterance of the Messiah, or as that of one of his members, we may describe this Psalm as being, the Righteous One's thoughts of God and of man while going up to the morning sacrifice."

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Psalm 4 - The Godly One's chief good

The Psalm titles are as ancient as the text of the Psalms themselves. The ancient versions prove that they are no modern addition. If then we may put confidence in them why is it that so frequently these remarks seem so obscure? Every one feels their obscurity. No critic has succeeded in satisfactorily showing the true sense of "On Neginoth" and similar terms. Musical instruments are almost always referred to in these terms, but these joyflu instruments of holy service have been lost in the ruin of Israel's temple.

It is some what howveer for us to know that the times of the true David and Solomon where typified, as to their manifold streams of joy, by the Neginoth, Sheminith and similar forms of harp and psaltery.

The Psalm before us, describing the chief good, was one sung on Zion in the tabernacle and afterward in the temple on Neginoth, some stringed instrument played upon by the stroke of the fingers or the musicians plectrum. It's theme calls for a joyful instrument.

This is the first Psalm inscribed "to the chief musician" and there is an interesting propriety in this being so. Its subject throughout is of Jehovah as the chief good - Israel's true blessedness - what more fitting than to give it to be sung in the midst of all the people by Asaph, the leader of the sacred music in the days of David? (1 Chron 16:5). Fifty three Psalms are for the chief musician.

May we not suppose the chief musician took the high place in the typical economy? Was he not used by the Lord to represent to Israel Him who is to lead the praise of the grreat congregation? (Psalm 22:25)

When he sang such deeply melancholy Psalms as the twenty second was the scene not fitted to bring into the minds of God's people the idea of the suffering Saviour, passing from the unutterable groanings to the joy unspeakable?

This Psalms takes a survey of the earth's best enjoyments - the sons of men revelling in the penty of corn and wine, the joy of harvest and of vintage. Their mirth is loud, their mockery of less mirthful ones tnan themselves is keen, vanity is their pursuit, false joys their fascinations. To such a happy multitude our Psalm represents one approaching who has come from weeing in secret places (v1).

Entering their circle, this Righteous One calls upon  them to consider their ways "O you sons of men" is his cry "how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity and seek lies? When will you leave broken cisterns? When will you turn from the golden calf back to the God of Israel, your glory? A pause ensues - "Selah" marks it. It is the sielnce of one who waits for the effect of his expostulation; but there is no response and he lifts his voice again and leaves his tesimony among them.

"But know the Lord has set apart the godlyl for himself." The Lord keeps the godlyl; each such ma is liek the witnesses of Revelation 11:6: "these have power to shut heaven and to smite the earth" for "the Lord hears when I call upon him" Well then may the sons of men give ear.

"Stand in awe - consider - flee to the atoning sacrifices appointed by the God of my righteousness" (v1).

Having done so, rest yourselves on Him; for a testify that the experience of all who have tried this plan of happiness has been such that they can answer the question "who can show us any good?" by an upward look to Jehovah, "Lord, lift on us the light of your face!" "Yes" says the speaker to his God, to whom he had cast his upward glance, and by whose look of love he seems riveted. "No sooner did my prayer ascend than the answer came. No sooner did I look to Him than the sun broke through the dark clouds "you have put more gladness in my heart than in the time when corn and wine abounded. I lay me down and sleep in peace; for you Lord, giving me the full portion of Israel dwelling in their land of corn and win, with its heavens dropping dew - Deut 33:28 - you alone make me dwell safely."

There is an undoubted alusion in the last verse to the blessing of Moses in Deut 33:28, where Israel's final destiny is declared to be dwelling in undisturbed security and needing none to help or bless them but Jehovah. In this Psalm teh godly one anticipates the blessedness that is not yet his portion, so we see him fixing his eyes on the future even while he has great present gladness. The vanity of teh sons of men is all the more clearly seen in light of the coming glory.

We can easily understand how any true child of God can use these words - they so exactly delineate his state of feeling both toward his God, and toward his fellow men. But in no lips could they be so appropriate as in His "who spoke as no man speaks." Indeed, is there not throughout a tone like that of "Wisdom" in Proverbs 1 and 8. The party addressed is the "sons of men" as there; and there is the same expostulatory and anxious voice, "How long you simple ones" (1:22) "Hear for I will speak of excellent things" (8:6).

We might imagine every syllable of this precious Psalm used by our Master some evening, when about to leave the Temple for the day, and retiring to his chosen rest at Bethany (v8), after another fruitfless expostulation with the men of Israel. And we may read it stillas the very utterance of his heart, longing over man, and delighting in God.

But further, not only is this the utterance of the Head, it is also the language of one of his members in full sympathy with him in holy feeling. This is a Psalm with which the righteous may make their dwellings resound, morning and evening, as they cast a sad look over a world that rejects God's grace.

They may sing it while they cling more and more every day to Jehovah, as their all sufficient heritage, now and in the age to come. They may sing it too, in the happy confidence of faith and hope, when the evening of this world's day is coming, And may then fall asleep in the certainty of what shall greet their eyes on the Resurrection morning - "sleeping embosomed in his grace, till morning shadows flee."

If therefore we were required to state the substance of this Psalm in a few words, we should scarcely err in describing its theme as, the Godly One's chief good. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Psalm 3 - The Righteous One's safety amid foes

There is strong evidence for the genuineness of the titles of the Psalms; they occur in all the Hebrew Manuscripts. (Only 33 of the Psalms have no title, they are called Orphan Psalms.) This Psalm was written by David, "when he fled from Absalom his son." The Holy Spirit may have used these circumstances in dAvid's lot, as an appropriate occasion on which to dictate such hymn of hopeful confidence in the Lord.

The connection with Psalm 2, is natural, whether we look at David's situation when he penned it, or to the more general circumstances referred to throughout. When the men of Israel refused David as "King in Zion" (God's chosen type of a greater King), it was natural for him to raise the cry to the Lord, "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me" (compare 2 Sam 15:12.)

It is not unnatural to place this cry next to the closing verses of Psalm 2, a Psalm in which we were told how men despised His call and plotted agianst Jehovah and his Christ. Hengstenberg has remarked: "It is certainly not to be regarded as an accident that Psalms 3 and 4 follow immediately after 1 and 2. They as well as the Psalm 2 are occupied with a revolt against the Lord's anointed.

When in v8 the enemy is spoke of as "smitten on the cheek bone, and his teeth broken" there is the same tone of conscious safety mingled with contempt at their efforts as in the "laugh" of Pslam 2.

It is a Psalm that may be found as suitable and needful in the latter days as when David wrote it. When waves of sorrow and calamity are dashing over the ship of the Church, it may borrow from this Psalm that ground of hope which long ago Jonah borrowed from it in his strange trial  "Salvation is of the Lord," (Jonah 2:8) "affliction and desertion are two very different things, but often confounded by the world" and confounding too "by the fearful imaginations of our own desponding hearts and the suggestions of our adversary" - Horne.

This seems to be a morning hymn (v5). And so Horsley hesitates not to call it "A prayer of Messiah, in the character of a Priest, coming at an early hour to prepare the altar of burnt-offering for the morning sacrifice."

Every member of Christ may use it; and we can easily see how the Head himself could adopt it as his own. We feel as if sympathy were more sure to us, when we know that the Lord Jesus himself  once was in circumstances when such a morning hymn expressed his state and feelings; for now every believer can say, "My Head once used this Psalm; and while I use its strains his human heart will recall the day of his humiliation, when he was comforted by it."

Who more truly than he could say of his foes, "How many!" since it was "the world" that hated him (John 7:7.) On the cross, they upbraided him with the taunt "there is no salvation for him in God" (v2) when they cast in his teeth, "If he will have him" (Matt 27:43); saying it not only of him, but to him? But (as in Psalm 22), he cried unceasingly in the Father's ear the more his foes reviled - "I cry - he hears."

Often he retied to the Mount of Olives, and either amid its olives or at Bethany, "lay down and slept" after enduring the contradiction of sinners all day long; yes, even after such a day as that on which they took up stones to throw at him. He foresaw the ruin of his foes (v7) when the Lord would arise. What a victory! And all the glory of it belonging to the Lord, and all the belssing to his people! (v8)

A believer can take up every clause and sing it all in sympathy with his Head; hated by the same world that hated him; loved and kept by the same Father that lifted up his head; heard and answered and sustained as he was, and entering on with him final victory in teh latter day.

It was fittinng to put the arresting mark, "Selah" at v2 where the foes are spoken of, and v4, where the cry and its answer are declared and at v8 where the final result appears.

Whatever "Selah" means it marks a proper place to pause and ponder (Hengstenberg). Here each Selah stops us at a scene in which there is spread before our eyes sufficient for the time, first the army of foes, as far as the eye can reach. Next, teh one suppliant crying into the ears of the Lord of hosts; and lastly that one suppliant's secure rest, certain of present safety and future triumph. May we not then justly entitle this Psalm, the righteous one's safety amid foes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Psalm 2 - The certainty of the Righteous One's exultation to the throne

We have a quotation from this Psalm in Acts 13:33, where recent criticism reads "As it is written in the first Psalm." It is not unlikely that it had at one time been considered as a second part of Psalm 1, instead of standing as a separate hymn of praise. But, in any event, it is an appropriate advance upon the preceding, placing before us again the Righteous One in a new position.

The view taken of Messiah by the world and by Jehovah is the theme; our eye is fixed on the purpose of Jehovah, triumphantly accomplished in Messiah's glory, in spite of all opposition. Nor let us forget the quotation of verses 1,2 in Acts 4:23, which asserts that is speaks of the fierced enmity of the world to the Righteous One from the period of his First coming onward to his Second appearing.

The nations, or Gentiles, have raged, and the tribes of Israel have agreed in hostility to the Lord's Messiah, ever since the day when Jews and Gentiles met at Calvary to kill the Prince of life; and their rage has not evaporated, but shall be manifest more fiercely still when the beast and the false prophet lead their armies to Armageddon. It is quoted with reference to that day in Rev 2:28, 11:18 and 19:15, quotes "the rod of iron" from v9.

Perhaps the expression used so frequently in the epistles "fear and trembling" is taken from verse 11. It is used in exhortations to servants (Eph 6:5) regarding duty; in Phil 2:13 to all believers engaged in striving for holiness, while in 1 Cor 2:3 Paul describes his state of mind in his ministry at Corinth by these terms.

May there not be a reference in all these, and similar passages, to our Psalm? It is as if it had been said, Remember our instructions for serving our King Messiah, in prospect of his glorious coming and kingdom - "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling."

Even the Jews are pretty nearly agreed that no other than Messiah is the theme of the sweet singer of Israel here. "Anointed" is considered as decisive - it is Messiah, Christ. By some readers, however, the introduction of Christ by the name of "Son" in v7 and then in v12 (Prov 31:2) has been thought abrupt. But abrupt as it may seem, there is no doubt hanging over the application. Messiah is "my Son" and so exclusively pre-eminent in this, that Jehovah, pointing to him, calls on all men to honour the Son even as they honour the Father - "Kiss the Son"

Had not our Lord this very passage in his eye when he spoke these words (John 5:23) - "The Father has committed all judgement to the Son, that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father?" And it is so we can understand how the term "Father" as applied to the Godhead, broken upon the ear of Israel without exciting surprise, when John the Baptist (John 1:18) spoke of the "only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father." Son and Father are co-relative terms, and would be so understood by John.

When, with Hengstenberg and most other interpreters, we render v12 "A little while and his wrath shall be kindled" or retain the common version, there is no doubt, a reference to this verse in Rev 6:17,18 "the wrath of the Lamb... and who shall be able to stand?" And if the former rendering is adopted, as we believe it ought, then there is a tacit reference to this passage in the New Testament expression, Rev 22:8, "I come quickly." It is as if he said, Come quickly to that Saviour for eternal life; for lo! he comes quickly to deal with all who do not obey the Gospel. Opposition ends in ruin; submission brings blessedness, the fulness of which shall be known only on the day of wrath.

But let us examine the contents of this rich and lofty Psalm. The plan of it is simple, but very grand. Messiah, on the morning when he broke the bands of death is contemplating our world lying in wickedness. He beholds a sea of raging hatred and hostility dashing its angry waves on the throne of God and his anointed One.

He hears their scornful words, "Let us break their bands asunder" and marvels at their infatuation. For in the heavens above, Jehovah sits in long-suffering calmness, till their stubborn and long-lasting enmity compels him to arise against them. He "troubles them" (v5) as he did the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and referring to their haughty words declares (v6) "they on their part so speak and I in spite of them, have set my king in Zion."

They may try to make Rome, or any other city their metropolis, and may set u pa head to themselves, but Jehovah will set up his King and make Zion - the platform of Jerusalem - his metropolis, as certainly as he set David on the throne and made Zion his capital.

From that city of the greater than David has gone and shall again go forth the law. Yes, says Messiah, I will proclaim Jehovah's resolution or decree; He has said to me "you are my Son" because appearing then in his own proper array; no more hid in humiliation. He had been Son from eternity, but having dived under our ocean of sin and misery, his sonship seemed obscured till he emerged at his resurrection on the third day (Acts 13:33).

And even so again, when he appears in glory at his coming, investing his own with their resurrection-dress (their proper clothing as adopted sons), the long-unseen Son of God shall be saluted as "My Son" by the Father as he places him on his visible throne.

At what time that manifestation shall occur depends on his own request (v8) - a request which he shall prefer whenever his purposes are ripes - and then He arises to terribly shake the earth. Does the reader not recognise in v10 the voice of the tender long-suffering compassionate Saviour? It resembles his mode of expostulation in Proverbs 1:23, in prospect of that "laugh" which is the extreme opposite of pity, referred to in Prov 1:26 used by himself against his unyielding foes, even as it is here by the Father (v4).

Come, then great and small, fall upon his neck, and be reconciled now. Be well pleased with him whom the Father is well pleased ; "Kiss the Son" - this is saving faith. For "yet a little while and his wrath shall be kindled" (v12). Behold he comes quickly! Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.

It is not then to be forgotten that the time when Messiah utters these strains is supposed to be the time of his resurrection. This seems to be declared to us in Acts 13:33. He had felt the united assault of earth and hell, but had proved all to be vain; for He that sat in heaven had gloriously raised him from the dead, and his enemies had sunk to the ground as dead men.

We might imagine this Psalm poured forth by him as he stood in Joseph's garden, beholding the empty sepulchre on this one hand, and the glory of the right hand of the Father on the other. It is thus we easily understand the words in v7, "this day I have begotten you;" the Father declaring him his "only begotten" by raising him from the dead, and doing this as a pledge of his farther exaltation - placing him (v8) in the position of Intercessor, so he shall arise to return as acknowledge Conqueror and King.

 Glancing back now upon Psalm 1 in connection with his more lofty and triumphant song, we see how appropriately the book of Israel's sacred songs has begun. It has sketched to us the calm, holy path of the righteous and then the final results in the day of victory, when the Anointed shall have put down all enemies and the way of the ungodly shall have perished. We shall meet with these topics continually recurring in the course of the book; it was good, then, to present and epitome at the outset.

Glancing also at particular expressions in both psalms, we see at the beginning and end, links of connection with the preceding in such expressions as v1, "meditating a vain thing" in contrast to the meditating on the law (1:3), while "the way of the ungodly shall perish" in 1:8, is bought to the mind when we read 2:12 of "their perishing from the way" It carries our thoughts to Joshua 23:16 as Psalm 1:3 did to Joshua 1:8. And does not the Baptist get his expression "chaff he shall burn with unquenchable fire" (Matt 3:12) by joining Psalm 1:4 and 2:12.

Our Lord, when on earth, might read this Psalm as his history - the Righteous One, who ever meditated on the law of the Lord, and kept aloof from the vain meditations of the heathen, opposed by men who could not submit to the restraints of holiness, but in spite of all, exalted at length to honour. For here we have Messiah, (the head of every one who seeks Jehovah's face), exhibited in his Majesty and in full prospect of final triumph.

The subject of the whole may thus be said to be the assertion of "the righteous One's claims to the throne." Some one has proposed to entitle it "the eternal decree" in reference to v6 of which the Psalm might be spoken as the development. But in as much as the Eternal decree forms only one topic, while the burden is Messiah himself directly, it is undoubtedly more exact and descriptive to as it's title, the certainty of the Righteous One's exaltation to the throne.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Psalm 1 - The blessed path of the Righteous One

The first sound of the harp of the sweet singer of Israel might well be thought strange in a world lying in wickedness. It celebrates the present happiness of that man who has fellowship with God, and no fellowship with the ungodly. Behold he man! His eye arrested, not by the things of the earth but by what has been sent down from heaven - "the law of the Lord."

He has found the "river of living water" he is like a tree - like some palm or pomegranate tree - laden with fruit of like that tree of life in Rev 22:2 which yields its fruit every month, and yield fruit of all variety. "Every bud of it grows into a grain", says the Targum on the words "all that he does shall prosper," as in Genesis 7:11,12 "He is the very contrast of the barren fig-tree, withered by the curse" says a modern interpreter.

Perhaps this comparison to the tree and the streams should carry us back to Eden, and suggest the state of man holy and happy there. Redeemed man rises up again to Eden-blessedness. Is it the fact of its occurrence in this Psalm, or is it simply the expressiveness of the similitude, that has led to its repetition...

"He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” - Jer 17:8

But, besides, we are carried back to Joshua by the language used regarding the man's prosperity. Joshua's career was one of uninterrupted prosperity, except in one single case, when he forgot to consult the Lord; and the Lord's words to him where there:

"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
But you shall meditate on them day and night.
That you may observe to do according to all that is written in them,
For then you shall make your way prosperous.,
And then you shall have good success" - Joshua 1:8

Perhaps this reference to the days of Joshua made this Psalm more appropriate as an introduction to the whole book. It connects these ancient days with other generations. It sang of the same Lord, acting toward all men on the same principles. It sang of a race who had come to possess the land of Canaan, who acted on the holy maxims that guided Joshua when he took possession - a race of men guided by the revealed will of Jehovah.

The ungodly are not so prosperous - they are not as "trees by the river side." They are as "chaff" ready to be driven away in the day of wrath, and unable to resist the slightest breath of Jehovah's displeasure (Dan 2:35, Matt 3:12, the "day of decision") Hence they cannot "stand." Even as in Rev 6:17, the cry of the affrighted world - kings, captains, rich men, mighty men, bond, free - is "The great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?" For the "Lord knows the way of the righteous" Our Lord may have refered to this passage in his memorable expression so often used (Matt 7:23, Matt 25:12, Luke 13:27) "I never knew you - I know you not"

O, the happiness, then, of the godly!" Happy now, and still happier in that day which now hastens, when the husbandman shall separate "the chaff" from the wheat, and the kingdoms of earth be broken in pieces "like the chaff of the summer threshing floor" and "the wind shall carry them away" O the folly of those who "sit in the seat of the scorners" and ask in these last days (2 Pet 3:3) "where is the promise of his coming?"

We have noticed that our Lord seems to quote one of the expressions of this Psalm; and let us see how we may suppose it all read by him in the days of his flesh. We know He read it; his delight was in the law of the Lord; and often he quoted the book of Psalms. As he read, it would be natural to his human soul to appropriate the blessedness pronounced on godly; for he knew and felt himself to be indeed The Godly, who "had not walked in the counsels of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful"

He felt himself able to say at all times "your law is within my heart!" Was He not the true palm tree? Was He not the true pomegranate tree? Can we help thinking on Him as alone realising the description of this Psalm? The members of his mystical Body, in their measure, aim at this holy walk; but it is only in him that they see it perfectly exemplified.

"His leaf never withered'" "he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22); "he yielded his fruit in its season" obeying his mother Mary, and being found about his Father's business; going up to the feast "when his hour had come" and suffering, when the appointed time came; everything "in season" And "all he did prospered;" he finished the work given to him (John 17:4) and because of his completed work, "therefore God has highly exalted him" (Phil 2:8,9).

We who are his members seek to realise all this in our measure. We seek that everything in us should be to the glory of God - heart, words, actions - all that may adorn the gospel, as well as all that is directly holy. Having the imputed righteousness of this Saviour, we earnestly long to have his holiness imparted too; though conscious that He alone comes up to the picture drawn here so beautifully. In either view, we may inscribe as the title of this Psalm, the blessed path of the righteous one.